Skywatch

  • October 5, 2006

    Episode 60: Planets Galore

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    More and more planets! A recent Hubble Space Telescope survey of over 180,000 stars turned up 16 new planets, very far away from the Sun. These systems are about a quarter of the way across our Milky Way galaxy. The planets found are larger than Jupiter and orbit around their stars very quickly, very close to the star. Early planet searches involved looking for a ?wobble? in the motion of stars caused by large planets. A new technique is to look for the slight dimming of a star?s light caused by a planet passing, or ?transiting,? in front of the star. To use this technique, the orbit of the planet has to be just right, and the planet needs to be fairly large to block out enough light. The results of the search are good news for NASA?s Kepler Mission, which will search for smaller planets using the transit technique.